By IM Eric Rosen
The first day of blitz was a roller coaster day for many players, but the clear storyline was the dominance of Hikaru Nakamura. After 9 blitz games, he now sits with 18 total points and remains at the top of the leaderboard. The race for second place has been hotly contested between Fabiano Caruana and Richard Rapport. The two grandmasters were neck and neck throughout the day but it was Caruana who narrowly edged out Rapport to claim clear second place with a total of 15.5 points. Tomorrow will feature the 9 final blitz games where anything can still happen.
Standings after day 4
The five-time US Champion has yet to lose a game in this event. Nakamura had an ultra-solid performance with 3 wins and 6 draws. Although he did lose his 2900 rating on the live-rating list, he remains tied with Magnus Carlsen for the top blitz player in the world with a live rating of 2892. When asked if he cares about keeping his top blitz ranking, Nakamura responded “it doesn’t matter at all… If I was really worried about the rating, I wouldn’t play the event.” Going into tomorrow, Nakamura has a comfortable 2.5-point lead over Caruana. He is getting all the more closer to the sweet $37,500 first place prize which is surely more rewarding than any sort of blitz rating.
GM Hikaru Nakamura
The Comeback of Liem Le
Liem Le was clearly out of form in the first 3 days of rapid chess and found himself in clear last place after day 3. Today, he completely turned things around and reminded everyone why he is a former world blitz champion. In the first 6 rounds of blitz, Le scored an astonishing 5 out of 6 points. In the final round of today, he was incredibly close to taking down Hikaru Nakamura with the black pieces, but couldn’t quite navigate his way through the tactical chaos. Ultimately, Hikaru won in a messy time scramble finale and slowed down Le’s momentum. However, the Vietnamese grandmaster still boasts an impressive 6/9 score for the day and moves up to 8th place in the standings. He also gained nearly 50 rating points on the live blitz rating list and jumped to #29 in the world.
GM Liem Le
Tragedies and Triumphs
Fabiano Caruana had the most topsy-turvy day out of any player. He scored an abysmal 1 point out of the first 5 rounds, but finished strongly with 3.5 points in the final 4 rounds. In his final blitz game against Richard Rapport, he had forced mate, but was unable to find the right moves amid time pressure. The game ultimately ended in a draw. Many more blunders and missed opportunities were seen throughout the day leaving commentators bedazzled. In one game, Sam Shankland brilliantly defeated Wesley So in an absolute masterclass. In another, Shankland allowed a one-move knight fork against Jeffery Xiong resulting in an instant loss. Peter Svidler lost a couple miniatures after opening preparation went terribly wrong. Multiple players (including Svidler) lost on time in positions that still had life.
GM Fabiano Caruana
No amount of words can truly reflect the drama and intensity that took place today. For those reading this sentence right now, I highly encourage you to watch today’s commentary with GMs Maurice Ashley, Yasser Seirawan, and Alejandro Ramirez to relive the excitement. Also, be sure to tune in tomorrow at 2:50pm at grandchesstour.org and kasparovchess.com/grand-chess-tour for the final day of the Saint Louis Rapid and Blitz!